Why is it that far too often life leaves us feeling beat up? Well, stuff happens. In the tenets of Buddhist philosophy this is the fist of the four noble truths. No matter what we do things will happen that cause unhappiness. The key is to minimize the frequency and intensity of these experiences. To put it bluntly, we need to realize how we cause self-inflicted wounds and do our best to avoid doing so. Should be simple, right? Yes, well, not so much. Let’s take a quick look at one approach that can make a massive difference in your life.
In our quest for happiness and success we all get seduced into the idea of control over people, circumstances, our environment, and the list goes on. This seduction often blinds us to the most powerful thing that we do have control over. In fact, it is the only thing we really have control over. The first century philosopher Epictitus
(one of my personal favorites) and a practitioner of what is known as stoicism (gravely misunderstood by the way) offers us this profound wisdom as we pursue our personal sense of happiness and peace of mind.
“Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night- there is only one path to happiness, and that is giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else to God and Fortune.” Discourses, 4.4.39. God and fortune here refers to universal energies or powers that we perhaps don’t fully understand.
“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What’s not under our control are the body and any of its parts, our possessions, parents, siblings, children, or country – anything with which we might associate.”
So, one excellent way for us to free ourselves from self-imposed stress and strife is to recognize when we are struggling to control things that are essentially out of our control. Invest some time reflecting on much of what you do each day, and those things that upset you, and you will begin to develop an awareness of how often we all fall into this insidious trap.
Not surprisingly, at the most advanced levels our To-Shin Do martial art reflects this philosophy clearly. We strive to use body positioning, angling, deception, timing, and distancing to allow our attacker to “defeat themselves.” In fact, so often in our practice of To-Shin Do, as in our daily lives, it is we ourselves getting in our own way through excessive tension and overreaction that fouls us up.
So, as we practice our unique martial art let it be a constant reminder to avoid struggling for control in circumstances where it is not necessary. Relax your body, relax your mind.